Tag Archive | Fire and Hemlock

March Magics Wrap-up

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(pinterest; reminds me of Tom Lynn from Fire and Hemlock)

March draws to a close… I can’t believe how fast this month swept by! I wish I’d been a bit more organized so that I could participate more deeply in March Magics… but what I did do was so much fun anyway, and I greatly enjoyed the DWJ love throughout the blogosphere! (Terry Pratchett, too, of course… but I’m not (yet) a fan since I haven’t read any, so…)

And since I never did do a post with favorite fan-art, I’ve got some DWJ-ish pics — either fan-art or things that remind me of her books — scattered throughout my wrap-up-post because WHY NOT! (They none of them belong to me; I’m linking back to where I found them on Pinterest.)

As for my experiences of the month, they are as follows… In lists. BECAUSE LISTS.

Posts:

Reading:

  • I did read Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones and greatly enjoyed it! I wanted to review it but haven’t managed that yet… It’s hard to review DWJ books.

  • But other things came up so I have yet to delve into Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! Which is a pity because it would have been the perfect excuse to try my first Pratchett… But I’m still looking forward to it and will definitely read it very soon. šŸ™‚
  • It doesn’t really count because I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but I’ve been hearing smatterings of Enchanted Glass around the house — getting the fam hooked on DWJ; like a boss. šŸ˜‰ I’ve read it before but it’s fun hearing snatches of it again!
  • I really wanted to do some rereading but didn’t manage it… Next year! (And/or, ya know, the rest of this year… I’m not picky. :P)

Other stuff:

  • I had an absolute BLAST with the Diana Wynne Jones Twitter Party on the 25th. I’d never “been” to a Twitter party before, and couple that with not usually running across people who talk about DWJ and suddenly being swamped with links and reviews and thingsF, and I was basically in book heaven. IT WAS SO FUN! ^_^

  • I also went on a DWJ quote-liking binge on Goodreads. ‘Twas marvelous.
  • And I had SO much fun reading everyone else’s posts/reviews!
  • I had some ideas for some other posts but never did get to them, I’m afraid, and I definitely did not schedule my reading etc. very well this month, but what little I did do was still marvelous fun!
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(pinterest; I don’t even know who they’re supposed to be but they look very DWJ-ish to me. Sophie & Howl? Chrestomanci & Millie?)

(If you’ve missed the excitement, do check out the link-up post with all the other awesome posts, and you can find the remains of the twitter party under the hashtags #MarchMagics and #DWJMarch.)

Many thanks to Kristen @ We Be Reading for hosting this magical month of appreciation for Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett! I absolutely loved it and I’m already looking forward to next March! ^_^

(Next year, I will be PREPARED! >:D)

Happy March Magics, everyone!

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My Diana Wynne Jones Journey (So Far)

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Since it is after all March Magics / Diana Wynne Jones month, I thought it would be fun to list all the books by that author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far, and a few thoughts on them and how I ended up reading them . . . I’m going to list them in order of when I read them, so they’ll be nicely organized by year, though not necessarily chronologically by series!

This may, I fear, be rather long, since I have now read 21 novels, a short story collection, an essay collection, and a smattering of other short stories, so far . . . making 23+ books… not to mention rereading a few… So if you don’t read the whole thing, there is no judgement. šŸ˜‰ This is mostly for me, anyway . . . a pleasant reminiscence of looking back at my Diana Wynne Jones journey thus far. ^_^

(If I’d coordinated my time better at the START of the month, I suppose I could have divided it into several posts and posted them throughout the month . . . but oh well, better late than never!)

A note: I’m not bothering to put a star-rating on any of these. Diana Wynne Jones books get 5 stars. Period. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I did rate one novel, Witch Week, 4 stars, because I was slightly disappointed in the ending; and I have been known to rate a few of the short stories 4 stars; and one short story I quite disliked. So you see, there are exceptions to every rule… but on the whole: 5 stars all the way!)

The titles all link to Goodreads.

2012

howl1Howl’s Moving Castle

Read: March 14 ’12

My very first book by Diana Wynne Jones, how fitting that it should have been this one — still my favorite of all — and that it should have been during March as well! I had several close calls and almost didn’t read it at all! I was recommended this book quite some time ago by a cousin who has superior taste in books, to whom I’m forever indebted for introducing me to this book which now ties for my favorite with The Lord of the Rings. I rather forgot about the recommendation for awhile . . . and then stumbled across Howl’s Moving Castle at a library sale. I remember I almost hadn’t gone, since I was definitely far too busy and had no business going. I remember that I saw the title, thought “ah! I remember being recommended this . . .!” and picked it up. I also remember, specifically, almost putting it back a couple times, because it looked so odd. I’m very glad I didn’t! At last the humorous-sounding back, with the high praise of a recommendation from my cousin, won me over in spite of the utterly weird cover. Never judge a book by its cover has never been a more apt phrase! This is still my top favorite DWJ book, Howl is still my favorite character, and I hold all the later ones to this standard of excellence. It’s simply a PERFECT book and I love everything about it. ^_^

houseways1House of Many Ways

Read: Nov 5 ’12

Remember, remember, the fifth of November… because that’s when I read my second Diana Wynne Jones book. šŸ˜‰ I had no clue that Howl’s Moving Castle had any sequels — even as loose of “sequels” as it has — since this was before my time of Goodreads. But I remember somehow finding out there were sequels and getting excited. Then — oh joy! — I sighted this book at another library sale and snatched it up. So even though I was too busy to read due to NaNoWriMo, I read this book in a day all the same. I found it somewhat creepier than Howl’s Moving Castle, but a delight and so HILARIOUS, not to mention the best thing about it, namely Twinkle. Oh my goodness, TWINKLE. XD

derkholm1Dark Lord of Derkholm

Read: Nov 14 – Dec 13 ’12

I found Dark Lord of Derkholm at the same library sale as House of Many Ways, and specifically remembered being recommended it alongside Howl’s Moving Castle… and once again I almost didn’t get it due to the cover. But I did anyway. I was so glad I did. I didn’t “get” it for a long time, but it was great fun to read and I hope to reread it soon. But the shenanigans — oh, I loved them! (Once I got used to them.) All the characters and insane happenings and fantasy creatures . . . it was glorious. I named my cat after one of the griffins, Callette.

2013

castleairCastle in the Air

Jan 7-8, ’13

It was only after I had read House of Many Ways that I found out that the other sequel, Castle in the Air, was actually chronologically BEFORE that one, after Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh well. I promptly got it from the library and devoured it and it was hilarious. The twists I for the most part did NOT see coming. It was so different but I loved it! Especially the relationship between Abdullah and the Soldier — so much humor!

mixedmagicsMixed Magics

Read: Feb 20 ’13

Also a library-sale find, I decided to eat this one next, but I’m afraid I didn’t really “get” this one at first either, since it’s a collection of short stories connected with the Chrestomanci series. I knew that they were fascinating stories, and that I was already addicted to the character Chrestomanci, even after only seeing him in a very few pages — his dressing gowns! — but this one left me a bit nonplussed at the time. I don’t think it’s a good introduction to the world(s) of Chrestomanci, but I didn’t know that then. Still, it was quite enjoyable; and I really loved it the second time I read it, once I’d read the rest of the series.

yeargriffin1Year of the Griffin

Read: Mar 12-13, ’13

I now own this one, but at the time, I found it from the library, completely excited there should be a sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm! It was great fun as well, though a mite hazy in my mind now… I loved the griffins though. And I hope to reread it soon too.

***

howl2At this point I reread Howl’s Moving Castle — starting it on May Day! How appropriate! — and it was even more glorious the second time! All the twists and things that you don’t get the first time . . . I think all Diana Wynne Jones books beg to be read at least twice… possibly more. šŸ˜‰ Especially this one! ā¤ Both because they are wonderful and need to be devoured more than once, and because they are so complex with so many twists and mind-rearranging necessary that it will be QUITE a different read the second time around! And it will probably take a third (at least) to fully appreciate.

2014

dalemarkvol1Cart and Cwidder

Read: Jan 31 ’14

At yet another library sale, I found a collection of the first two Dalemark books. I read this one in a day. It was utterly different from her other books I’d read — for one thing, it was an older one; for another, it was entirely set in another world with no connections to ours; and for a third, though it was funny from time to time, it wasn’t AS funny as often before. It was a new look at her books for me . . . and I realized that she could write amazing epic fantasy as well (with muskets!!).

ammetDrowned Ammet

Read: Feb 5 ’14

Needless to say, that same week I devoured the next one. It was utterly strange too and I had fun trying to piece together connections with the first one, since it was mostly off by itself. It was so strange but I loved it (which . . . kinda stands for all of her books. ;)).

dalemarkvol2The Spellcoats

Read: Feb 24 ’14

So then I had to rush out and find the next book in the series, from the library (except now I own it in a collection of its own! Oh joy!). This one was even stranger than Ammet, but I enjoyed it a ton. One of the things I like about her books is that they are all so DIFFERENT even in series. And this was the first time I really noticed the sibling relationship thing she had going (though thinking back, it was largely in Derkholm as well). It was wonderful, and I love how well she can juggle so many characters, especially in one family!

reflections1Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Read: Aug 15-23 ’14

At this point, I had learned there was a collection of nonfiction essays on writing and other books and such lovely things, written by Diana Wynne Jones, and that my library had it, so I simply had to get it. It was SUCH a delight! I have a tendency to not read much in the way of nonfiction, but when I do, I often find it through liking an author’s fiction and therefore being rather assured that I’ll enjoy their nonfiction thoughts. So much wonderfulness in this book. ā¤

crowndalemarkThe Crown of Dalemark

Read: Sept 6-11 ’14

I had tragically not had time to read this one when I read Spellcoats, so I got it from the library again and commenced on a truly fascinating journey. This was the first one that I read that was ENORMOUS. So I didn’t devour it in a day like I do with most. As usually, it started out being extremely odd, but I was so fascinated and excited with the goings-on in this one! For one thing, it started tying together the three previous books! Characters I had loved on their own were now starting to meet up with other ones, which was glorious. For another thing, it did the most brilliant thing I had ever seen: time travel. In a fantasy world. *flails* I. LOVED. THIS. It has some modern-type setting with trains and stuff, and then the almost-medieval-but-with-muskets time period the first two had, and then also linked in with the mythic pre-historic time that was like pre-medieval dalemarkwith more magical stuff. And it blended these all seamlessly, along with all the plots from the previous books, as well as its own plot, and so many rivalries and things between all the oodles of characters whom I loved, and just LKJLDKJALKDSJLFJ IT WAS AMAZING!!! It was really the ending that got me on this one. It was so flaily and unexpected and perfect and it left me an incoherent wreck of squealy awesomeness-overload. It was my favorite book I read in 2014 and became my favorite DWJ read after Howl’s Moving Castle.

charmedlife1Charmed Life

Read: Dec 11 ’14

Ah, classic Chrestomanci! This is what I hold as a standard for the later books in the series. I was instantly addicted. Loved this one! Cat Chant is a good hero and I want to live at Chrestomanci Castle (“I belong to Chrestomanci Castle!”) and Chrestomanci himself is awesome. This book is just… well, classic! I want to reread it… and the whole series…

The Lives of Christopher Chantchresvol1

Read: Dec 15 ’14

I was a bit surprised with this one. It was interesting to get Christopher’s backstory as a kid, though he wasn’t quite . . . himself, yet. But it was really good too. I loved all the different world things! And it was cool to get to find out where some of the things came from, like the cat and Milly of course, and Christopher/Chrestomanci himself. šŸ™‚

2015

conradConrad’s Fate

Read: Jan 18 ’15

I knew that this one was later in the series (even though, chronologically, it was directly after The Lives of Christopher Chant and before Charmed Life) but I didn’t care. It was about Christopher Chant the future Chrestomanci who’s my FAVORITE, as a TEEN . . . and I simply had to read it right away! I think it’s my favorite in the series besides the last one… and the first one… But it was so FABULOUS!! I loved it to smithereens, especially young Christopher and Conrad’s relationship. I ADORE buddy stories! Especially when they annoy each other. XD

chresvol2The Magicians of Caprona

Read: Feb 18 ’15

So then I had to devour the second collection of Chrestomanci books which I owned, starting with this one. One of the few downsides to the series is that Chrestomanci himself isn’t in them all the time, since they each usually follow different heroes/heroines, and he usually only shows up later on for a bit. But still, they’re all delightful! This one was great fun, set in a magical Italian type of setting. I loved this one.

witchweekWitch Week

Read: Mar 4 ’15

This was the one, also in said collection, that I actually didn’t quite rate 5 stars; just for the ending. You’d think it would be for some other reason, like that it was set mostly at a school, which I normally don’t enjoy… And yet other than the end, this was actually one of my favorites of the Chrestomanci books! I found it to be great fun, trying to piece things together and keep track of the characters, and Chrestomanci himself when he (finally) arrives, is in top form as always! I just… was a little bit sad about the ending, and other people probably won’t mind and I won’t say what it WAS, but I wished there had been a little… something different. Still, it was great overall, and actually led to one of my favorite quotes. šŸ™‚

chresvol3The Pinhoe Egg

Read: Mar 9 ’15

AAAHH THIS BOOK! ā¤ It’s the only Chrestomanci book I don’t actually own, which is entirely TRAGIC since it’s my favorite of them all! We’re back to Cat in this one, and Chrestomanci Castle, so it feels all comfortable and you’re glad to be back and makes you think of the first book, but there’s still lots of other new things going on and just all of the messes, and Chrestomanci’s in it a bit more and there’s a GRIFFIN and just alksdjfldkj I love it so much and need to reread it. CHRESTOMANCI! ā¤

***

At this point, I had a rereading stretch.

I reread Mixed Magics that March, since I had finally read all of the other Chrestomanci books, and I LOVED it this read-through.

Then I managed to get my lovely bookclub on Goodreads to read the Howl trilogy; hey, I’ll take any excuse to reread Howl. šŸ˜‰ So I re-read Howl’s Moving Castle in March-April, Castle in the Air I devoured once again on a day in July, and House of Many Ways I read again in August.

***

enchantedglassEnchanted Glass

Read: Aug 22 ’15

Yet another library book, I have an oddly incomplete memory of reading this book… o.o But I know I enjoyed it muchly, that it was characteristically funny and odd and fantastical, and that I loved the characters of Aiden and Andrew and so on. Also, a minor thing, but one of my favorite proposal scenes. XD And I loved the furniture moving and the vegetables. *giggle* (For some reason it made me think of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit… just a little.) Also it made me make some shortbread cookies. Diana Wynne Jones books usually make me want to eat things (usually cucumber sandwiches and other sandwiches…).

power1Power of Three

Read: Sept 23 ’15

I don’t know WHY it took me so long to read this one… I’d had it from one of my many library sales for a long time… I think the cover wasn’t appealing. šŸ˜› Anyways I finally read it and loved it so much! It has SUCH an enormous twist like half-way through… I just loved the twists in this one… Half of it feels like a medieval fantasy sort of thing, and the other half . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it. šŸ˜‰ Oh, and the family dynamic was fun to read too. She’s so good about writing amazing and realistic but hilarious families! The style of writing was more like the Dalemark books and less like her characteristic whimsical voice… but there was that ONE scene (you’ll know if you’ve read it) that suddenly the style switched to her more normal one, and it was the most hilarious part of the book and the characters were drunk and it was 100% classic DWJ writing and I loved it. XD Anyways, this book was, again, so DIFFERENT and I loved so many of the characters.

archer1Archer’s Goon

Read: Nov 10 ’15

I had positively no business reading anything during such a busy and insane NaNoWriMo as this year proved to be. But I had scored this one at a library sale at the beginning of the month, and simply could NOT resist reading it as soon as I could. Oh my GOODNESS, what a wild ride! O_O It was utterly HILARIOUS (surprise…?) and had such a number of plot twists I was just flabbergasted most of the time… The characters are splendid too, especially reading about the siblings that are all so different. And it seamlessly blends contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, and a bit of time travel both forward and back and just alskdjfldkj it’s AMAZING. It goes right up there with my favorites. MY BRAIN IS STILL REELING FROM PLOT TWISTS. Since my favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, which can stand alone, and two of my other favorites happen to be the finale to their series (The Pinhoe Egg and The Crown of Dalemark) if you read just ONE Diana Wynne Jones book besides Howl’s Moving Castle, probably try to make it this once since it stands alone and is mind-blowing. šŸ˜›

2016 – so far

firehemlockFire and Hemlock

Read: Jan 1 ’16

*flailing softly* This book though! ā¤ I wrote a long and rambly review-ish thing for it, so I will not reiterate all of it. But it was so awesome and I was so glad it was that big because I wanted to live in it forever and it was so worth staying up till past 3 a.m. to read it. I loved it so so much and Tom is one of my favorites and I’m slightly addicted to the idea of Tam Lin retellings now and need to go find several to read…

toughguideThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Read: Jan 28 – Feb 13 ’16

This one has the most exotic story about how I acquired it of any of the others… I found it at a Half-Price Books store in another state as a Christmas present of sorts from a wonderful uncle while I was on a roadtrip that memorable time when I was trying to do NaNo on the road… Since it’s organized as an A-Z guidebook, I had read most of it through randomly flipping through, but this year I finally sat down and read it cover to cover, and it was so funny to see all the tropes and cliches — but also ideas! Bwahaha — of my favorite genre… It’s half poking-fun, half homage to fantasy, and it’s fantastic. XD

deepsecretDeep Secret

Read: Mar 22-23 ’16

And here we have my latest! I snagged it at the library specifically for March Magics and I’m so glad I did! I fully hope/expect (maybe) to try to write a review for it this week… if I can… But for now, it was very . . . different. o.o (Surprise. XD) It was darker, I think, than any I’d read before, but I loved it (of course) and am very proud of myself for exercising restraint and only staying up till 2:30 a.m. reading it and finishing it the next day. Heehee. It’s rather dangerous to start a 400 page DWJ book late. šŸ˜›

zfirebirdsMisc. Short Stories

I have also, at various times, read three “random” (i.e. in other collections) short stories by Diana Wynne Jones. These are they. (Short story collections are notoriously hit-and-miss. I haven’t read all of these through yet. But I had to pick out the Diana Wynne Jones ones. ;))

  • JoBoy (in The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois)2 stars. zdragonbookThis is the only thing by her I’ve specifically disliked that I’ve read so far. I didn’t quite get it, it was dark and depressing and ENTIRELY the wrong thing to read when I was ill one time. >.> Brilliant, yes, with some good bits, but too scary for my taste.
  • I’ll Give You My Word (in Firebirds Rising edited by Sharyn November)4 stars. This one was a lot of fun, with lots of strange and long words — loved a lot of it!
  • Little Dot (in Firebirds edited by Sharyn November) 5 stars. Oh my goodness, this story! It’s all from the point of view of a cat, and she refers to her owner, Henry, as if she’s the one who owns him, and they live on a farm in England and he’s a magician but nobody seems to know it, zfirebirds2and there are several other cats, and shenanigans ensue and it’s marvelous fun. Who know a cat’s POV could be such fun!

Tally:

2012: 3 books
2013: 3 books (+ 1 reread)
2014: 7 books
2015: 7 books (+ 4 rereads)
2016: 3 books . . . and counting!! šŸ™‚
= 23 so far

So there you have my Diana Wynne Jones journey up to this point (there was also seeing the Howl’s Moving Castle movie, which is another story and which I also love, despite its enormous differences from the book, though I still like the book better).

I’m looking forward to continuing this journey, both rereading old friends and discovering new ones! Thank goodness she wrote a lot of books, so I’m not out quite yet. šŸ˜‰

dianawynnejonesbook

Have you read any of these? Or any of DWJ’s books that I haven’t read yet? (Any recommendations??) If you HAVEN’T read any . . . well what are you waiting for?? No better time than the present. šŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading! (*whistles innocently and pretends not to notice that this post is over 3K words long*)

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

Top Ten Tuesday: Books and Songs

TopTenTues

The theme of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (a weekly book/list linkup at The Broke and The Bookish) is Books and Music. There are various spins on it being done, and I’m going to do a mix of them.

This is going to be a mixed back of song-ish books I’ve read, want to read, and then some songs at the end which should be books.

On that note, I just know there are tons of awesome songs/ballads I’ve heard, mostly Celtic ones, that would make absolutely fabulous books. But I’m having a really hard time thinking of any just now.

The curious things about songs, though, is that they’re usually already perfect in song form.

And as much as it would be awesome to have some of them as books, it’s never going to equal the awesomeness of the song itself and may in fact take away from it in some ways. Songs and books are quite different forms…

Anyways, on with the varied list…

BOOKS I’VE READ

themap

1. The Map: A Jackaby Story by William Ritter

Oh my word, this story. It’s a shortish, novella-type adventure that goes with the Jackaby series (and it’s free on Kindle!) and I absolutely adored it. It’s not exactly based on a song, but it’s based around a song… which was so much fun. The premise basically is that they’re going after the treasure from the song Whiskey in the Jar. So much awesome. (Hopefully I’ll review the series sometime…)

orphanssong

2. Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

This has a large music theme (obviously) and I loved it so so much. *hugs book* I’ve always thought that music could go really well with fantasy settings and magic and that sort of thing, and this author pulls that off brilliantly.

fhemlock

3. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Not only is it based on fairytales that were I believe originally ballads (Tam Lin, Thomas the Rhymer), but it also has a lot of music involved since Tom plays the cello and there’s a whole . . . band . . . thing . . . going on. Anyways it’s awesome (and I reviewed it at length so obviously I love it a lot).

BOOKS I’VE NOT READ

SONGKEEPER-FRONT-COVER

4. Songkeeper by Gillian Bronte Adams

…Speaking of Orphan’s Song… I just heard that the sequel, Songkeeper, has a release date! April 15th! That’s definitely a date going on my calendar. I’ve been dying for this book to come out ever since I finished the last page of Orphan’s Song, and it’s coming sooooon!!! I’m so excited. (It will also be very songish, I’m sure.)

hwmn

5. The Highwayman’s Footsteps by Nicola Morgan

I… haven’t read this one yet, so I can speak as to its quality or exact plot, but I hear tell that it’s in some way based on The Highwayman, a fabulous/tragic poem by Alfred Noyes, immortalized, for me, by Loreena McKennitt’s brilliant, gorgeous, haunting sung version of it. I’ve always thought it would make a great book so I’m very much looking forward to this novel inspired by it.

SONGS THAT SHOULD BE BOOKS

(These are probably bad examples… I wish I could think of more…)

6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Speaking of Loreena McKennitt… (Listen to parts of the songs I mention in this post, on her website.) She did a great, haunting version of this song. It’s a tragic song, and might better make a tragic backstory for a book than for a book itself? (I’m thinking like… a fantasy book based on it. I know it’s based on historical stuff but it would be funner this way. XD) But it feels like it needs to be involved in a book somehow… even if it would be rather grim.

7. Raglan Road

Again, Loreena sang a great version of this poem by Patrick Kavanagh. There’s just something intriguing about it. I don’t know how much of a story it could make in book form, but there’s an eerie feel to it and it could make a fabulous mystery/fantasy/romance type book similar to Tam Lin, perhaps?

8. Bold Jamie

This is a song by Cara Dillon (one of my favorite singers!) about a young man wrongfully accused of stealing many things, including a man’s daughter. I just think it could make an interesting book, or any of a hundred other fabulous Celtic ballads involving thieves or… things like that.

9. Stolen Child

I believe it was by William Butler Yeats but Loreena McKennitt did a fabulous version of it too. (Yes, she turned a LOT of great book-worth poems into songs, and has some great originals of her own as well. So much good material.)

10. The King of the Fairies (melody)

Aaand I’m just going to throw out there that there should be a book named after The King of the Fairies, which is a fabulous tune.

***

Like I said, I’m having a hard time coming up with songs. I KNOW there are a ton of awesome ones! Oh well… that’s a start, anyhow. šŸ™‚ (Basically LET’S HAVE BOOKS BASED ON ALL THE LOREENA MCKENNITT SONGS AND ALL THE AWESOME CELTIC BALLADS. This should be a genre. *nods seriously*)

…And now I have like half a dozen new plot bunnies that want me to write them. Fabulous. -_- Heehee… Writers lead perilous lives: anything can provide inspiration! šŸ˜‰

Reading Roundup #1

readingroundup

It’s been a month since I started this blog! Hurray! More importantly, we’re a month into this new year of 2016, and I read several lovely books in January, so I’m here to start a monthly trend on The Page Dreamer: a Reading Roundup to record what I read each month!

I started out the month by reading some books I’ve been meaning to read for review and hadn’t gotten around to yet, interspersed with a couple random books… As I finished a book on the 22nd, I looked back and went “Wait a minute. I’ve read six books in three weeks.” Six books is what I generally average in a month when I’m neither super busy nor reading a lot. But I felt like all I’d been doing the last three weeks was read–how was it I hadn’t read more?? That was when I realized… “Oh… they’re all enormous books.”

booksspreadsheet

I keep a spreadsheet of books I read every year. Because it’s so fun. And yes, that’s 2222 pages total right there…

So then, having gotten the large ones of a pressing nature out of the way, I ate some smaller bite-sized books which were a nice change. ^_^

I also… um… seem to be having a problem with being too generous with my star ratings? I do this at the beginning of every year because I have nothing to compare with and am generally feeling magnanimous. So… all the five stars! (Except for two.) Oops?

And I read three books in a row (not counting the nonfiction) which featured enormous sea monster serpent things. (The Sunken Realm, Goddess Tithe, Out of Darkness Rising.) Go me. šŸ˜€

Books I read in January 2016

{My Review}

5starrating1. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones — I really loved this! Of course, it’s by one of my top-two favorite authors, sooo… that’s not surprising. šŸ˜‰ And it’s about books and writing and it’s a retelling and a lovely friendship/romance and has Tom Lynn. All-round win on this one!

{My review on The Road of a Writer}

5starrating2. Yorien’s Hand by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt (The Minstrel’s Song, #3) — So enjoyed this, and am really looking forward to going back to read the first two books in the series! I loved the world, adventure, dragons, and characters (especially Brant & Kiernan Kane!). Fabulous Epic Fantasy. ā¤

{My Review}

3starrating3. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke — I loved most of this one, but was slightly disappointed by the ending… Still, I’m glad I read it and it’s definitely worth reading for those less picky about their endings than I! šŸ˜‰ Venice and brothers and the mysterious boy Scipio and detective Victor who has pet tortoises.

PoDcover

{My Review}

5starrating4. Prince of Demargen by E. Kaiser Writes (Thaw, #3) — This was a very interesting sequel to a Frozen-like story (The Snow Queen retelling) and I’m very much looking forward to reading the first two in the series. But it’s quite rich and I love Hess a ton and it’s brilliantly written.

5starrating5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes #3) — I haven’t reviewed this one… It’s actually a reread, ish… I think I’ve read them all before? But I don’t really remember them so I’m working on going through all the Holmes stories — yay! This is the first collection of short stories (after the first two novels), and has twelve stories in all. My favorites I think are The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Anyways I’m loving reading through Holmes — so awesome, and I love him and Watson: they’re a great pair! šŸ™‚

{My review on The Road of a Writer}

5starrating6. The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase (Eyes of E’veria #4) — Pirates, time-travel, a Twelve Dancing Princesses twist, romance, Christian themes and fabulous fantasy, not to mention Cazien. ā¤ I can’t 100% recommend it due to some mature content and general scariness, but otherwise fabulous.

5starrating7. Goddess Tithe by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Tales of Goldstone Wood, #2.5) — Haven’t reviewed this either, but oh my goodness, I adored it! *huggles little book* Set in the midst of Veiled Rose (book 2) which is the last Goldstone Wood book I read, it’s just a perfect little tale at sea, with mystery and fantasy and an elegant perfectness to the writing. I loved Munny and he and Leo’s relationship was so fun — they don’t even speak the same language, which made it hilarious! XD Anyways it has a bit of everything and was kinda bittersweet and perfect. ^_^ ā¤

{My Review}

4starrating8. Impactivity: How to Set the World on Fire Without Burning Out, by Tracy Higley — Interesting non-fiction of a self-help, time-management, inspirational sort of thing. I hope to put some of its ideas to use… Hopefully I’ll read it again. Very well put together.

5starrating9. Out of Darkness Rising by Gillian Bronte Adams — Also didn’t review. But it was so so beautiful. A little novella, I read it in a sitting, and it’s a gorgeous allegory. It was incredibly well written — I love this author’s style! — and just… gaah. Words fail me. It was such an amazing allegorical story! ā¤ It was so immersive and detailed, I really felt pulled in, and the timeless tale of love and salvation was so beautifully woven. It made me really love the Prince and his Father and look to the allegory beneath, pointing upward. Just an awesome story. (Not to mention one of my favorite covers!)

5starrating10. Half-Blood by Jaye L. Knight (Ilyon Chronicles, #0.5) — Everyone and their cousin seems to be after me to read this series, so I finally sat down and read the prequel novella in an attempt to get me hooked enough to not be too daunted by the length of the later books… It’s kinda dark and likely not everyone’s cup of tea, but I didn’t mind it so much since I’ve read similar tales before. Jace is awesome (naturally) and I love Rayad too, and I’m looking forward to continuing the series. šŸ™‚ (Ya know, once I get over the length… >.> *cough* I’m sorry, long books tend to get postponed by this skittish reader…)

Have you read any of these?

What have you been reading?

Dream away in those pages…

~The Page Dreamer

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

fireandhemlock

5starrating

Title: Fire and Hemlock

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

review

This is more like an essay than a review, I’m afraid, but it’s what I could come up with…

I’ve tried to write this review a couple times now, and I am in despair over it because Fire and Hemlock is simply too vast and… well, as Eleanor Cameron said (of a different book) in “The Green and Burning Tree“, it is “a wild, glimmering, shadowed, elusive kind of book.” That’s the best description I can find for it, and it’s not even in my own words.

I really want to review this book, but have absolutely no idea how. So I’m going to start typing and hope something comes out of it besides an incoherent ramble the size of a London train.

Fire and Hemlock is set in a modern-day England in the ’80s… both of which are slightly alien and unfamiliar to this young-ish American reader, so even though it’s “contemporary” and set in the real world, it actually felt a bit fantastical to me… Which is a good thing. (Occasionally I would go “Oh! So that’s what such-and-such is like/called in England! Fascinating!” or “Who knew that you flip records over to listen to the other side?” [I do know about tapes, but not records…])

Beneath the seemingly ordinary setting and life of the heroine, Polly, there runs a strong undercurrent of unusual happenings, rather frightening fantastical goings-on, and some snatches of wild shadowed fae stuff and magical sorts of things. The fact that the ordinary and the fantasy blend so flawlessly together in this book attests once again to Diana Wynne Jones’ brilliant skill as a writer.

As a retelling of the old folk tale/ballad about Tam Lin and also about Thomas the Rhymer, all the bits relating to both that wove into the story were fascinating, especially in said modern setting.

The book left me with a rather dizzying near-belief that it was something that had really happened. Yes, fantasy and all. It was so real that one nourishes a distinct and startlingly-firm suspicion that the whole thing must have actually happened… If not to the author herself, at least to someone she knew. It has that strong of a feeling of being real — at times painfully so. And in just the sort of elusive, mad sort of way, that is always a part of the most real yet strange dreams. I imagine that’s how it would feel like if such things happened to you or I…

There’s stuff about writing, too, which was great, and Polly’s a sort of writer. I liked her. It was fascinating and realistic as well to watch her grow up along the way in the book, from about a ten year old girl to a nineteen year old young woman. A lot of it’s her looking back and trying to remember things about when she was growing up.

Polly and Tom’s friendship — perhaps growing into something more… — is the heart of the book. I just loved it so much. They make up stories together, which in strange and sometimes terrible ways seem to come true. Their friendship is perfectly natural and beautifully written and just I can’t even explain it, but I adore that entire aspect of the book, especially the blooming but unconventional romance. It’s all just so masterfully done.

Of course, the best thing about the book is Mr. Thomas Lynn himself, yet another fabulous unpigeonholeable (that’s a word, I swear; or should be) character which this author seems to excel at. Tom plays cello and drives “like a hero” (a.k.a. like a madman; he is a horrible driver and it’s glorious; the parts with his horse I mean car were hilarious highlights of the book), has an epic abrupt startling silence which people run up against when he doesn’t want to talk about things, and a sort of yelping laugh which cuts off, and he has colorless hair and glasses which are like another character, and he will perfectly seriously discuss what most people would call “make-believe” with young Polly, since of course they’re in the business of being heroes, and sends her books all the time and you just sort of feel safe when he’s around, even if horrible fantastical things happen, and he’s part of a strange frightening mystery, entangled in it and can’t get free and you just feel awful for him but you know he wouldn’t want you to and that he’s all right, really; except that he’s really not all right at all; and he’s mysterious and also very open in a way, somehow, and you can’t really explain him at all and apparently I need to talk with people who’ve read this because otherwise I’ll just ramble on about him forever? I’m done now. Almost.

(But really, what isn’t to love about a fellow who says of books:

“…don’t do that to that book! … You’ve got it open, lying on its face,” Mr. Lynn said. “The poor thing’s in torment.”

And about fairy stories:

“Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, you know, which you can find if you look.”)

It’s a giant of a book. At 420 very large hardback pages, it’s quite longer than the usual small-to-medium books by Diana Wynne Jones that I’ve read before (with a few exceptions) and yet I never wanted it to end. About halfway through, around when I felt like one of her other books would have been finishing, I panicked and thought, “Oh no, what if it ends soon? It needs to go on and on and on!” And then I checked and with relief and a sort of thrill of triumph, realized I had still a large amount to read. (Though my practical side threw a fit, seeing that it was after midnight and demanding that I go to bed — which I, naturally, ignored. The one strange — or not so strange — fact about Diana Wynne Jones books is that almost all of them that I’ve read, I’ve devoured in a sitting. Or at least in a single day. Which is fine for ordinarily lengths. But not so much for a 400+ page fantastic monster of a book which I started late at night to begin with… This was a stay-up-till-after-3-a.m. sort of book. I REGRET NOTHING.)

It is at once new and old. It gave me the feeling that I might have read it before, maybe, or had always known about it, while being at the same time entirely undiscovered. It reminded me of several other books that I’ve read and loved (or, considering the publication dates, I might better say they remind me of it…), while at the same time being completely unique. It’s like it somehow took snatches of a ton of books I love and weaved bits of them together into something new, but being its own thing at the same time. (The Penderwicks, The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt, as well as other books by Diana Wynne Jones… I feel like there were several others as well.) Also, all of the books it mentions, which Tom sends to Polly to read, were so fun to see listed — both the ones I’ve read and loved, and the ones I’ve not read and in some cases not even heard of (which of course makes me want to read them).

(“Polly had discovered The Lord of the Rings and was reading it for the fourth time under her desk in Maths.” was a particularly fabulous line in the book…)

In the category of complaints, it had its faults — all books do (well, except for a small handful, including a certain other book by the same author).

I will admit that I wanted much more of Tom himself in the story than he actually appeared in, but that can hardly be helped when it’s from the point of view of a girl who’s not allowed to see him and only does so from time to time.

It is also set in a modern setting, and therefore has some of the inevitable problems which are why I don’t like modern books much… (public school, so-called “friends”, split-up families etc.) but I liked this one in spite of them — like I said, it felt so real, so I can’t exactly complain about what happened as if it’s just a plot device if it happened, now can I? (I will say that poor Polly kind of has a dreadful life. …Actually, Tom does too. And yet here they are, plowing along! I suppose that’s heroism, right there…)

And the ending seemed to be rather sudden and, leading up to it, extremely vague to my mind so that I am still extremely confused and not entirely sure exactly what happened… though that could have just been the fact that by the time I reached the ending it was past 3 a.m., so that could have been the clock and/or a sleep-fogged mind talking… I also am of the opinion that many Diana Wynne Jones books require a second or perhaps third reading to fully understand it, especially some endings, so perhaps I’ll be all right if I read it again. And I don’t think it’s the author’s fault… I feel like it just went over my head or something. I do relish a thing that I don’t quite understand, when it means there’s always more to unearth in subsequent go-throughs.

It’s a book that you have to think about, which might not please some people, but definitely pleased me.

And of course, it’s the sort of book one spends most of the next day (or week… or month…) occasionally dipping back through it and rereading — preferably aloud, if any poor soul is near to be quoted at — the fabulously hilarious bits and smiling insanely over, just because you like it, even though you can’t quite understand why. That’s my experience, anyway…

I read this book on New Year’s Day (as I said, staying up till past 3, because it simply had to be finished!), which was a marvelous way to kick off my reading for the year.

And yes, it has taken me nearly an entire month to get around to writing this review. I still don’t feel as if I’ve done it justice. It’s quite simply impossible to describe.

I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it may have been mine. And quite good tea at that. Properly and gloriously British, bitter and sweet at once, and just the thing for a (long) rainy day, when one is longing for an elusive tale with a dose of ordinary mixed up with a dash of fantastic, as well as one-of-a-kind vibrant characters, a glorious love story (Tom would be berating me for that; sorry), and an enormous amount of classic Diana Wynne Jones humor.

I’ll be reading Fire and Hemlock again, I hope.

(And if you read this entire review, I quite sincerely applaud you and offer you cupcakes. Here.)

summary

From Goodreads:

Polly has two sets of memories…

One is normal: school, home, friends. The other, stranger memories begin nine years ago, when she was ten and gate-crashed an odd funeral in the mansion near her grandmother’s house. Polly’s just beginning to recall the sometimes marvelous, sometimes frightening adventures she embarked on with Tom Lynn after that. And then she did something terrible, and everything changed.

But what did she do? Why can’t she remember? Polly must uncover the secret, or her true love ā€” and perhaps Polly herself ā€” will be lost.

factoids

Genre/Category: Contemporary / Fantasy / Retelling (of Tam Lin)

Age Group: YA

Published: 1985

Pages: 420 hardcover

Series?: No.

When Read: January 1, 2016

Favorite Character: Tom Lynn, naturally

Other Notes: Received for Christmas. (And I now realize how ironic that is, given how many books are being recieved for Christmas within the book itself…)

findbook

{Goodreads} ā€¢ {Amazon} ā€¢ {Barnes & Noble} ā€¢ {Libraries}


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages…

~ The Page Dreamer

 

Nightstand Books {Jan 2016}

Nightstand Books is a monthly meme created by Jenelle Schmidt and D.J. Edwardson, focused on taking a look at your nightstand of books, i.e. what you’re reading or plan to read this month. Join in if you like! It’s usually the first Wednesday of every month… sooo I’m a week late. šŸ˜›

Also, I tend to go a little overboard with my posts, because I always plan a bit over-ambitiously what I want to read and it doesn’t always pan out so well… Ahem.

Still, on we go!

Physical Nightstand

nightstandbooksjan2016

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: I got this for Christmas and read it on New Year’s Day (all 400+ pages of it, and actually stayed up till 3:30 a.m. to do so, so yes, it was good) and really enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll write a review? 5 stars.

I’ve started reading a handful of books with daily readings, for the new year. I usually mean to and don’t usually succeed, but this year I’m trying! Most notably A Year With C. S. Lewis. It reminds me that I really need to read through several of his nonfiction works. I’ll obviously likely be in this all year, so I’ll just mention it this time. šŸ˜‰

I don’t know about the following, as I would like to read them soon, preferably this month, but I don’t know how soon it will happen.

  • The Night Dance by Suzane Weyn: Got this for Christmas and looks like a delightful little read (Arthurian/Twelve Dancing Princesses!).
  • Out of Darkness Rising by Gillian Bronte Adams
  • Half-Blood by Jaye L. Knight
  • Goddess Tithe by Anne Elisabeth Stengl: These three are small novellas which I would love to just sit down and devour but haven’t found a moment for yet.

Virtual Nightstand

ebooknightstandjan2016

The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase: Currently reading and excited for it. Pirates and Captain Cazien. YES. ā¤

Yorien’s Hand by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt: I read this and loved it. I reviewed it on my other blog, as I had gotten it for review; but I may also post the review here sometime. 5 stars.

Rising Shadows by Ashley Townsend: This is next on my list to read. Looking forward to reading it, as I already love the characters (one in particular…).

Prince of Demargen by E. Kaiser Writes: If I can finish the books I’m supposed to read for review, I hope to read this one and review it by the 22nd, so we’ll see. It sounds cool!

The Poisoned Cure by Deborah Dunlevy: Can’t. Wait. Dying to read.

Again, not sure how many I’ll get to…

I also have a handful of books I’d love to reread soon (Holmes short stories, The Blood of Kings Trilogy, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, Rick Brant…), and having just finished Yorien’s Hand I have upped King’s Warrior and Second Son on my read-soon list, and there are countless other books on my shelves waiting patiently for me to read them… But books for review come first, and I would like to read some of my smaller things, plus I’m not made of time, so we’ll see how much happens in the rest of January…

Basically I want to read ALL OF THE THINGS! (RIGHT NOW! *flails*)

What’s on your nightstand? šŸ™‚